The Journal of Experimental Biology 207, 1053-1054 1053
Published by The Company of Biologists 2004
Memories of Bob Boutilier
Robert Graeme Boutilier, Bob or “Boots” to many, and supervisor, but perhaps there was some of the Boutilier
Bobby to his family was born on 8 September 1953, a few political astuteness involved in that.
months over 50 years ago in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Bob and I used to love telling stories about each other, and
Growing up, his older sister Brenda always called him “my big when in public, or with students, we had an agreement that we
little brother”. He went to high school in Halifax and would not correct each other, and indeed, some of the tales,
completed his ﬁrst year of university there at Dalhousie, an especially Bob’s, became warmly embellished. It is true,
institution where he would later become professor and however, that in his early scientiﬁc career Bob followed what
Department Head. As a ﬁrst year student, he also started a rock we affectionately call the reverse Krogh principle to facilitate
band, being a talented musician. After the ﬁrst year, his parents his travels around the world. His most favourite axiom was
moved 100·km across the province to Wolfville, where his “never choose an experimental animal that is only found in
father retired and Bob enrolled at Acadia University. I ﬁrst met Cleveland, Ohio”. His science was uniquely inventive. While
Bob in 1971, when I was giving back midterm examinations working on land crabs in Tahiti, he and Chris Wood wanted to
in my ﬁrst class at Acadia. After trying to correctly pronounce exercise the crabs but lacked a treadmill. Not to be deterred,
the student’s French names, including ‘Robert Boutilier’, with Bob bought a variable-speed belt sander at a local store, turned
my Alberta accent, there was one lad near the front who, at the it upside down and it became part of a unique series of
end of class, raised his hand and said politely “Sir, you don’t experiments on crab exercise. His science became more
have an exam for a Bobby ‘Bootleer’ do you?”. cellular and biochemical in later years but he was always
Although he initially wanted to be a dentist, he developed a interested in the whole animal and how each small piece ﬁt
fascination for toads and things amphibian and, during his into the big picture.
penultimate undergraduate year, did a ﬁne study looking at the Bob, though kind, usually quiet and gentle, was ﬁercely
respiratory physiology of toads during progressive hypoxia. I independent, and this at times complicated his life. We laughed
thought the work was publishable and Bob asked what the best many times about how as a Master’s student in 1976 I took
journal was for submission. My answer was of course The him to some international meetings in Paris. As his supervisor,
Journal of Experimental Biology but suggested he send it I offered to order his breakfast from a cranky French waiter.
elsewhere as he would not want his ﬁrst paper rejected. Bob, “Of course not”, was his retort, “I can speak French”, which
being incredibly determined, wrote it up and submitted it to the he then tried to do. The waiter snuffled appropriately and asked
JEB and, of course, it was accepted. From day one, he loved Bob “Would you like to try English, Monsieur; you have just
that Journal and, as we know, several years ago he became its ordered a fried pencil”.
editor and it became a major part of his life. The 12 primary Bob loved his parents and family dearly, coming back to
publications that arose from his Bachelor’s and Master’s Nova Scotia at least twice a year to visit. Although his mother,
degrees at Acadia illustrate another talent that always stood Anne, at 93 probably does not fully understand what happened
him in good stead. As a “ﬁrst draft–ﬁnal draft” writer, his in December, she loved her Bobby dearly and was extremely
sentences in publications and his spoken words in class and at proud that he was, to use her words, a “Cambridge professor”.
conferences were always crystal clear, lacking excessive A myriad of Bob Boutilier stories abound around the world.
verbosity. I know of very few people who are fortunate enough to receive
A side of Bob that many did not know is that he loved to that unique combination of love and respect. He was simply
play golf, and his ﬁnesse around the greens was at “pro” level. fun to be around. His presence and warm smile made a room
On his 35th birthday, he shot his age on the ﬁrst nine at a come to life. He loved his students and defended them ﬁercely
difficult Nova Scotia course. He went on to complete the game should anyone say an unkind word about them. To him,
at 1 over par, 71. As a Master’s student at Acadia, his quick science, the journal and teaching were simply “fun”. He
reﬂexes and adept hand–eye coordination moved him to relished having good times as well. His family in England was
number 2 on the Biology squash ladder. He never beat his his dear Sidney Sussex College, where he delighted in the
Fellowship, as well as Margaret Clements and many others in midnight antics. His last words to me, which he wrote on a
the JEB office. clipboard on 13 December, when I saw him last, were “Shoot
He spent New Years Eve with my family in rural Nova one off the deck for me, Dan; I probably won’t make it this
Scotia every year and waited for midnight when tradition year”. Sadly, he did not make it. We will all miss him
granted that he could shoot the 12-gauge shotgun off the deck. immensely, but the science and stories will live on, as he does,
He confessed to his friends in Cambridge that one year he just in our hearts and memories.
missed a cow in the ﬁeld next door, but in fact it was only the Dan Toews
neighbour’s house, whose occupants eventually got used to our Acadia University